Memos need to convey information in a concise, purposeful manner. This no-nonsense style means that even if you're sweating the prospect of writing one, you should find the straightforward, sensible format a welcome relief from the other, more labor-intensive writing projects you might have on your desk.
Step 1: Write a Heading
Begin your memo by writing a standard heading that includes “To:”, “From:”, “Date:” and “Subject” on separate lines. Give some thought to the audience line, realizing that you might not wish to disseminate your memo to the entire company but to only a few departments instead. The perfunctory heading allows readers to quickly scan it and glean important information right from the start -- from relevancy to topic.
Step 2: State Your Purpose
Write a short opening that clearly states, in the simplest terms possible, your purpose for writing. Inject some personality, if you wish, but keep this addition brief as well. For example, if you are making an announcement, you might write, “After a particularly long and exhaustive search, I am positively delighted to announce that ABC Company has hired XYZ Writers Group to guide our upcoming marketing efforts.”
Step 3: Elaborate With Precision
Devote the body of your memo -- no more than two or three paragraphs -- to elaborating on your opening statement. Anticipating questions is important; you don't want your memo to generate more questions than it does provide answers, but a memo is not the forum for an exhaustive, 360-degree disclosure, either. Organize the most important information -- what employees will want to know and what they need to know -- in a hierarchical manner. Finally, keep in mind that a memo rarely serves as the “final word” on a topic; in fact, it sometimes sets in motion a full range of activities. So devote the last paragraph of the body of your memo to “next steps” or “what happens next.” For example, in this instance you might wish to share when you will introduce the writers group to your employees.
Step 4: Close in Style
Close your memo on an upbeat note, realizing that you are sending an implicit message for your employees to follow. You might say, for example, “I know you look forward, as I do, to embarking on this exciting chapter in our company's history. I thank you in advance for your continued enthusiasm and dedication.”
Step 5: Point to Attachments
Include a notation at the very bottom of your memo for relevant attachments, such as documents you want employees to read or new procedures you want them to follow. Simply write the word “Attached:” and briefly summarize the information. In this example, you might wish to include a compendium of the writers group's previous marketing projects so your employees can familiarize themselves with the group's style and accomplishments. Be explicit about where employees can find this information. For example, whether you post a paper copy of your memo on a bulletin board or email it company-wide, be sure that employees understand how to access the attachment.
Read your memo aloud as you carefully proofread and edit it before disseminating it.